Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The Late Lunch Briefing

I will be taking a couple of weeks out after today, so my postings will become far less frequent, though I do hope to get the odd thing up – not least the PMQs Battle on Wednesdays. Today’s Late Lunch Briefing is just a quickie...

The Latest Poll – Bad News for the Tories

ICM has released its latest polling figures – the first pollster to do so in light of the nationalisation of Northern Rock – and it makes miserable reading for the Tories. They are unchanged on 37%, but Labour are actually up two points on 34%. ICM, it should be noted, have been the harshest on the Tory share of late, but the fact Labour has gone up post NR is a telling story in itself. All this ties in with the growing perception that the government have handled this latest episode of the Northern Rock debacle fairly well; and that their decision making has been far more sensible than the option that the Tories want to pursue.

To Cut or Not to Cut

The same poll has said that a significant number of people want to see some sort of tax cuts or sustained spending. The obvious thing for the Tories to do is promise tax cuts therefore you might think. But it is an absolute minefield for them and really sums up the difficulties the Tories face if they are ever to get a serious, general election winning lead over Labour. As soon as they start to promise tax cuts the first thing everyone thinks about is the NHS. Get the Tories on the NHS and they become the nasty party again. In fact, get them on tax cuts and they are easily painted as the nasty party again because everyone assumes cuts in key public services.

However, unless the Tories do something they are simply unelectable – as poll after poll, month after month has shown. They are going to have to be very clever in how they position any public spending policies or they will be taken to the cleaners. But Cameron and Osborne will sooner or later have to take a risk – when they do this very much depends on when an election is going to be called and how itchy the right of the party get about the Cameron leadership. If the right start to sense that they are on to another hiding with Cameron in charge, expect them to become more and more vocal and the Tories to become more and more un-electable. But, a 3% lead in the polls is simply not good enough for the Tories.

Dangerous times ahead

Forget Labour being “in between a Rock and a hard place” with their banking issues, long term it is the Tories who are firmly wedged between the rock and hard place – they are damned if do and they are damned if they don’t. I will be very interested to see what effect NR nationalisation has had on the other pollsters’ polls.

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